Author Archive

h1

Vehicles of God’s Pursuit, the Necessity of Persistence in Evangelism…

June 7, 2013

Some further thoughts on apologetics and evangelism.

The Urban Witness

“5What then is Apollos? What is Paul?  Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted,Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7Soneither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. 9For we areGod’s fellow workers. You are God’s field,God’s building.” I Corinthians 3:5-9

The “Go ye therefore” commission that animates the heartbeat of the church should echo ever louder in the mind and heart of the believer.  Our individual obedience to this command and to all it entails is a chief evidence of our own interaction with the power of the Gospel.

God does not need the assistance of man in the task of Evangelism.  This God has written His law on the hearts of men, He…

View original post 633 more words

h1

Theological Inception, waging war within a hostile mind…

June 4, 2013

Some thoughts on apologetics.

The Urban Witness

Their inclination to hide is as old as the garden, they retreat from God not in fear but in contempt, not behind bushes but beneath ignorance and indifference.  Why then do we hide when we possess so great a catalogue of grace?  May God grant us strength to resist denial and courage to say what Peter would not, ‘yes I am His disciple.’ -R. Nash.

There are common phrases in the evangelical world, rallying cries of evangelism that find their root in Scripture.  “We must reach the nations,” “we must preach to unreached people groups.”  These phrases are supplemented by organizations that highlight our mission to “Go into all the world, making disciples of all the nations;”  to “be my witnesses…to the ends of the earth.”   We spend millions of dollars, give thousands of sermons to millions of agreeable souls, all focused on the mission we’ve been given and…

View original post 987 more words

h1

Deliberately Declaring a Dependent Gospel: Acts 17 and Evangelism…

May 9, 2013

I have written before about the urban witness in light of Acts 17 (read here) recently I was blessed to spend some time at a missions conference at Hunter Street Baptist church in Birmingham, AL.  I was there to discuss church planting and the motivation for witnessing to those around us.  Below is my exposition of the text of Acts 17:26-28.

Upper_East_Side_of_Manhattan_New_York

As I have spent the past two years processing a call to plant a church in New York City and as we now prepare to commence that work on site, there has been one text that has impacted my vision of more than any other.  With every visit to the city, nights spent there, days engaged there, the truth contained in the text has been confirmed over and over again.

When I first began to go to the city, I was overwhelmed by its size and complexity.  So many people, so little space.  It is easy to view this concentration as somehow incidental, some random function of economics and sociology.  Yet through the lens of Scripture and in light of our knowledge of God, the reality of the city’s purpose becomes clear.

In Acts 17, Paul is talking to the men of Athens at the Areopagus.  They have surrounded themselves with idols to every god known to man, but they have reserved one space empty for the ‘unknown god’ and it is in the name of this god that Paul begins to speak.  He begins at the beginning, a very good place to start; he explains that they are not unknown to this unknown God.  This God has in fact created them, and all the people of mankind.  He has determined the time and the place that they all live.  He has done this so that they might seek after Him and find Him.  For whether they realize it of not, it is in Him that we “live, move and have our being.”  This is no manmade golden God, it is the God of the universe that made man.  God now commands all men to repent.  And Paul explains the gospel of Christ’s resurrection.  Some received his words, some rejected it outright, some walked away in contemplation.

Deliberate

This is one of those key passages of scripture where God lifts the veil, if only for a moment, and exposes the unfathomable counsel of His will.  When we look at cities and we consider their existence and construction, and we dwell on the fact that for the first time in human history more people are living in urban areas than in any other time in human history; we can not deny the hand of God is at work.  God determines the time that each and every person exists and He draws the boundaries of their dwelling places.  This kind of deliberate action on His part should amaze us, and it should inform our lives and our mission.  We do not serve a random God.  He is deliberate.  This should spur us to be deliberate and intentional.  God has not called us to wander, He has called us to Go.  When Jesus charged His disciples, He did so with geographic intentionality.  They were not to randomly scatter across the globe, rather they were to go to Jerusalem, then Judea and Samaria, then the utter-most parts of the earth.  In Acts, we see His overwhelming orchestration in the collection of disciples in Jerusalem, and then their dispersal to almost every city in the Mediterranean.  Paul was sent, city by city, to proclaim the gospel to the souls God had providentially gathered together in cities across the Roman empire.  We have to recognize our place in this paradigm.  God has called us and placed us with the same meticulous intent, and for the same glorious purpose.

Declaring

God has brought people together and concentrated them in cities for a purpose, so that those who do not know Him, might find Him.  How does this happen?  How do these people find God?  The irony in this text is that the Athenian men, listening to Paul, were unaware of just how close God was to them at that moment.  He was there in His omnipresence to be sure, but He was also present in the Word Paul proclaimed to them.  God was as close as the spoken word is to the ear.  As Paul, indwelled by the very Spirit of God proclaimed the Word,  the Word who was with God and was God and is God was very much present.  The lost that God has gathered together find Him when we share and proclaim His Word.  He has His sheep in every city, they hear His voice and they follow Him.  This should fill us with awe and wonder.  Not only are we the vehicles of God’s divine pursuit of the lost, but we get to bring God close to those around us when we share and proclaim His Word.  What a privilege.

Dependence

Paul proclaimed a particular message to these men.  He informed them that this ‘unknown’ God is the reason these men exist.  He made all of mankind and mankind is totally dependent upon Him for their lives and for their salvation.  Their response should not be one of ignorance, but of repentance.  The call to repentance is a call to proclaim your total dependance upon God.  God alone can provide salvation from judgement; and when we repent we acknowledge that our sins are great but we recognize that our God is greater.

Response

Cities are not accidental, they are the deliberate act of a loving God.  God has a divine intention in bringing men and women into close proximity with one another, so that they might seek after Him and find Him.  As believers, we must recognize our role in His plan.  When we love those around us, when we share His Word, when we display our dependance on Him, we are in fact bringing God within reach of those in need.  The question is not whether God is present in your city; the question is do your lost neighbors, co-workers and family members see His presence in your life?  For “how can they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him they have not heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?

h1

Worried About Witnessing? Don’t be….

April 19, 2013

Some thoughts on witnessing.

The Urban Witness

A member of your church tells you that he really wants to share his faith, but is afraid to do so. How would you respond to him?

I would first say that he should be very encouraged and thankful that he has a real desire to share his faith. A real mark of a believer, someone who has been born again by the “living” and abiding word of God is and should be a desire to proclaim the excellencies of “Him who called us out of darkness and into light.”(I Pet. 2:9) Indeed it is for this reason we have been called, to be a witness to all the nations. (Matt 28:19) I would then say that I understand the fear that comes with that calling, it is a natural foe that we all must face but one that we have been empowered to defeat to the glory of God…

View original post 783 more words

h1

The Necessity of the Word to Salvation: Inclusive vs. Exclusive…

April 14, 2013

The Exclusivity of the Gospel of Christ.

The Urban Witness

 

One of the enduring mysteries of the Christian faith surrounds the nature and rational behind God’s revelation of Himself to His Creation.  “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork,” (Ps. 19:1) and yet God’s action of revelation did not cease with the heavens and the earth.  Nor did God rest solely on the bearers of His image in creation.  God spoke this creation into existence by His Word.  He spoke to Adam and Eve in the Garden, issuing commandments from day one, precepts to secure the prosperity of His creatures within His creation to and for His Glory.  When that creation fell, God spoke the words of both judgment and promise.  Pain would come and toil would increase with enmity toward the speaking serpent, but salvation also was declared from the inception of sin.  God continued to speak directly to His creation…

View original post 2,145 more words

h1

The Kingdom of God is: Greater than its Current Appearance…

April 8, 2013

msHe put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”
He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.”
(Matthew 13:31-33 ESV)

As believers we live life in light of a promise.  A promise found in the very beginning of time and recorded in the very beginning of the Bible which speaks to the inevitable rise of God’s kingdom on earth. Genesis 3:17 is known to some as the protoevangelium, or “first gospel.” In this verse The Lord God speaks to the serpent and foretells the demise of the serpent’s reign over the surface of the earth.  The offspring of the woman Eve would be at odds with the offspring of the serpent.  The seed or offspring of the serpent would bruise the heel of the woman’s seed; and the woman’s offspring would crush the head of the serpent. This tiny phrase contains within it a promise of One who would come and be the One, bruised and beaten, but One who would crush death and defeat the serpent by His death and resurrection through the power of God. This promise had come to those fallen in the garden, but to them, it was not yet fully realized. This promise courses through the entire scripture all the way to Matthew 13, and like leaven lifts the entire word of God.  It’s truth of the kingdom’s rise and evil’s demise is declared in the garden, finished at the cross, and yet evil is still prevalent.  What are we to make of this reality that has already occurred but is somehow not yet completed?

This passage in Matthew is ripe with meaning and nuance.  One of the greatest mysteries surrounding the kingdom of God is that it has appeared with Christ, and yet it is not fully here.  Apologetically this is a huge conundrum; If Christ the King has come, and He has proclaimed that the kingdom has arrived then where is it?  Is he talking about a mere heavenly reality or a true earthly dominion.  The disciples themselves asked this same question to the risen Christ in Acts chapter 1.  As they stood on the mount called Olivet, their minds awash with thoughts of the kingdom they asked, “is now the time the kingdom will be restored?”

Many of us, as we read this passage in Matthew, are prompted to question its meaning.  We are prompted by general biblical curiosity to be sure, but also something by deeper.  The paradox of tiny seeds and mighty kingdoms, minute yeast and massive loaves speaks to a larger discontinuity we all face.  We are citizens of Christ’s kingdom but residents of Satan’s world.  So we ask, If the kingdom is here then why is there still suffering, injustice, sin and tumult?  Like the disciples, each new generation of believers face the risen Lord and ask “is now the time?”

The answer to these reasonable questions is found in this passage in Matthew.

The kingdom is already present, though not yet fully consummated. The technical term for this is inaugurated eschatology, the kingdom has been inaugurated, but not yet fully consummated.  Jesus alludes to this truth in both of the examples he provides in verses 31-33.

The mustard seed, while the smallest known seed at the time, contains within in it all the potential for a mustard tree.  In essence, it is already a mustard tree, but not yet fully developed.  It is greater than its physical appearance.  It is teaming with potential, give it the right conditions and it will blossom beyond every tree in the garden.

The yeast speaks to the same metaphor.  It is tiny, almost insignificant, and yet it activates and causes growth and increase. Yeast is alive, and has an impact greater than its physical appearance.

God’s kingdom is found on earth in the form of his followers, in the body of believers known as his church.  In every captive heart, and in every renewed mind, there resides the measure of kingdom impact.  We experience love, family, fellowship, and loss through the experience of this kingdom community.  To those who undergoes this divine naturalization, the reality and the presence of God’s kingdom on earth is overwhelming.  And yet there is something lacking, something not yet present.  Think of all the good the church accomplishes, think of all the love that you experience in the fellowship of believers, think of all the service done on the part of the church attempting to make the world right; now consider the following: The millions of believers across the globe, and the love of the believers across this country, are but a minute expression of the kingdom that is to come.

So what are we to do with this truth? I believe the answer comes from Acts 3:19-21.  Peter and John are speaking to a crowd on the Temple Mount, following the miraculous healing of a lame man at the gate called beautiful.  This instance is a perfect example of kingdom living, through the proclamation of God’s love and the power of His Spirit, the lame are made whole and the Word is proclaimed.  Immediately after this, Peter and John proclaim the following to the crowd of witnesses:

Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that the time of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. Acts 3:19-21

Peter and John acknowledge the arrival of the kingdom through their actions, but they also call on the listeners to hope in the kingdom that is to come.  Our response to the signs and proclamation of God’s kingdom is to repent, turn from sin, receive Christ and wait until the time that he will return and restore all things.  Christ has come, He has come in power, He has deployed His Spirit that we may proclaim the kingdom of Heaven.  While some are restored in the present, He will restore all things at a future time.  So we preach.  So we act in love to a hurting world.  And we relish the joy of His calling on our lives, knowing full well that as great as that joy is, it will pale in comparison to what is to come.

h1

The Kingdom of God is…

April 2, 2013

XPISTOSThere has been much written in recent years about the Kingdom of God. However, with all its recent attention, there remains much left to be understood concerning the topic. The Kingdom, both as a doctrine and as a reality, is pregnant with intellectual tension and real life application. Consider these truths: The Kingdom has arrived in Christ, and yet we are to pray for it to come on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:10) As Christians we are citizens of the Kingdom, and yet we are still living in a world gripped by evil. (1 John 5:19) We are to seek the Kingdom above all else, only then will our earthly needs be met. (Matthew 6:33) The Kingdom will come with much prayer, the Kingdom will come with great certainty, and it will be gifted to those who suffer persecution for the sake of righteousness. (Matthew 5:10) Many of the above statements seem contradictory and yet they are all accurate, as believers how do we make sense of these truths?

As a matter of introduction, we are going to briefly examine the scope of understanding concerning the Kingdom of God. Like many of the systematic doctrines of the church, the Kingdom of God does not lend itself to easy definition. Furthermore I am under no illusions that I will be capable to give any newer definition to the topic that what has already been given.

Over the next several posts we are going to examine the Kingdom of God, or as gospel writer Matthew refers to it, the Kingdom of Heaven. This series will be brief and is meant to spur thought and further study. Were the sky parchment and the oceans ink there would not be enough room to expand upon this topic to its conclusion. Our effort will be to examine four texts in the gospel of Matthew and ask, What does this passage say about the Kingdom of God/Heaven? And how is this truth applicable to our faith?

 

Post one: The Kingdom of God is: Greater than its Current Appearance…